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Aviation united against ATC 'privatization' at NBAAAviation united against ATC 'privatization' at NBAA

With supporters of the so-called privatization of air traffic control pushing legislation (H.R. 2997) in the House of Representatives, attendees, companies, and speakers at the National Business Aviation Association's annual convention in Las Vegas were overwhelmingly opposed to the bill.

The halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center Oct. 10 through 12 were lined with a number of banners featuring well-known pilots voicing their opposition against the legislation, while the convention opened with a press conference and panel discussion featuring AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker and the heads of the Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association, and NBAA. Baker said that even though recent attempts for a House floor vote on the legislation have failed, the fight will continue. "This is a long game, and this issue isn't going to go away until we have a change in leadership," he said.

At the opening general session, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) spoke out against the bill, saying that while it may sound like a good idea to some, “the devil is in the details.”

Titus also added, “It’s unfortunate Chairman Shuster has been insistent” on removing ATC from the FAA, and the attempts have delayed the passage of long-term FAA reauthorization and held back progress.

Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, who has spoken out against attempts to “privatize” ATC in the past, also addressed the general session. Lovell, along with "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and other acknowledged pilots, was also featured on a new video opposing the legislation.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said, “They have attack ads, we have leaders and legends.”

The airlines have been attacking general aviation in advertisements and on social networks through a front group called Citizens for On-Time Flights.

One NBAA attendee and aviation industry veteran, Robert Duncan, the chairman emeritus of Duncan Aviation, a national, family owned maintenance, repair, and overhaul company founded in 1956, said, “It’s such a good system, we should stick with it.”  

Duncan, who has been a pilot for almost 60 years, said convention attendees are largely against the controversial change. “You’re preaching to the choir here.”

Just ahead of the conference, a number of major aviation, consumer, and passenger rights organizations joined forces to launch an advertisement opposing ATC “privatization.” The ad, which highlights the airlines’ questionable records on technology and customer service, says the change would be a giveaway to the airlines and “puts profits before passengers.”

On Oct. 3, Garmin President and CEO Cliff Pemble wrote an op-ed in The Hill saying, “Congress should be running away from H.R. 2997."

AOPA is encouraging members to contact their representatives in the House and consider contributing to the AOPA advocacy fund. One hundred percent of donations will be used for fighting so-called ATC privatization.

Joe Kildea

Joe Kildea

AOPA Senior Director of Communications
Joe is a student pilot and his first solo flight was at AOPA’s home airport in Frederick, Maryland. Before joining AOPA in 2015, he worked for numerous political campaigns, news organizations, and the White House Press Office.
Topics: Advocacy, ATC

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